Jim Rizzuto, who has served as president of Otero Junior College since 2001, announced his plans to retire on July 31, 2018. A nationwide search will be conducted for his successor this winter.
In an age where the average tenure for a college president is barely six years, Rizzuto has proudly served for 17 years. He also served as joint President for Lamar Community College from 2006 to 2008.
“This was an incredibly difficult and emotional announcement to make,” said Rizzuto. “I am very thankful for those who have supported me over the years and for the students, staff, faculty, and community members who always brought energy to Otero and made my job fulfilling.”
With an enrollment of about 1,400 students, the college’s service area includes the Southern Colorado Counties of Otero, Bent and Crowley. The College offers many of the amenities of a university, with on-campus student housing, food service, 12 intercollegiate athletic sports, and many student life events, clubs, and organizations.
During Rizzuto’s tenure the college benefited greatly from his leadership and received several multi-million dollar grants for STEM, business, healthcare, and various technical training programs. Other notable highlights include leading the college to become a Hispanic serving institution, developing strong partnerships with 4-year universities to increase transfer opportunities for students, and adding several athletic sports – men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s rodeo, and men’s wrestling.
“As president, my focus was to create a true college experience for students and actively engage in that experience,” said Rizzuto. “That’s why we built outstanding residence facilities, made sure appropriate support services were readily available to students, and worked so hard to promote a culture of inclusion. A priority for me was to know each and every student so that I could better serve their educational needs.”
Prior to becoming Otero Junior College’s fourth President in its 76-year history, Rizzuto had served on Colorado Governor Bill Owens’ Cabinet. He was the executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Finance Administration. Previously he had served in the Colorado State Senate for 16 years serving 12 of those years on the Joint Budget Committee. As a senator, Rizzuto was a strong supporter of education at all levels and was a true friend to the community college system. His support of education was recognized in 1989 with his induction into the Colorado Community College and Occupational Education System Alumni Hall of Fame.
While serving in the Colorado Senate, Rizzuto was named “Legislator of the Year” by 12 different organizations during his political tenure. The City of La Junta honored him in 1994 with the La Junta’s Community Service Award. And in 2009 the Association of Student Government leaders in the Community College System named Rizzuto as “President of the Year”.
Colorado Community College System president Dr. Nancy McCallin expressed her gratitude for Rizzuto’s countless contributions and legacy he will leave.
“It’s simply amazing to reflect on the number of years President Rizzuto has served, not only in higher education, but in the public sector as well,” said McCallin. “He has transformed Otero’s campus, the student experience, and established a strong foundation to better serve the needs of the surrounding communities. He will truly be missed.”